The system of doctrine and government of the Church of England. Historically, Anglicanism embraced a variety of theological positions. The Church of England does not hold to a definite theological system but has long been divided into parties that have very little in common beyond their adherence to the church. These parties are generally known as high church (See Anglo-Catholicism), and low church (evangelical), and broad church (liberal; see Latitudinarianism).
At first, however, Anglicanism, despite its adherence to episcopacy, was clearly Protestant. For the most part, Anglicanism repudiated Rome's views on papal supremacy and sacramentalism and strongly defended justification by faith alone. However, the Church of England repudiated Puritanism as surely as it did Romanism. Thus, in time it came to see itself as a middle way between Geneva and Rome, while remaining avowedly Protestant. Later, it declined further by presenting itself as a middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, gradually losing its Protestant distinctives and leaning more openly toward Rome. This decline has accelerated as Anglican leaders have assumed a prominent role in the effort to effect union with Rome under the headship of the pope.
For a couple of centuries after the time of Elizabeth I, Anglicanism comprehended only the Church of England and Wales and the Church of Ireland. It expanded with the consecration of bishops in America and other colonies and with the absorption of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Today it is a worldwide communion loosely held together by the Lambeth Conference, which meets every ten years.
Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (pp. 27-28). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.
Return to Index of Concepts and Definitions